Teens become riskier drivers as they enter senior year of high school

As teens get ready to head back to school this fall, a new study conducted by SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) and Liberty Mutual Insurance finds that older teen drivers are overconfident and perceive themselves as safer drivers despite experiencing more accidents and near misses (57 percent of seniors) than their younger peers (34 percent of sophomores).

Parents may be unknowingly opening the door to this behavior as consequences for risky driving taper off for older teens.

Nearly 70 percent of teens ages 15 and 16 say they would lose their driving privileges if they were to get into an accident whereas only 55 percent of teens 18 and older believe they would experience the same consequence.

The study also reveals that 75 percent of seniors feel confident in their driving abilities, but with age and experience comes riskier behaviors such as engaging with phones behind the wheel. Older teen drivers (71 percent of seniors) are more likely to use a phone while driving than younger teen drivers (55 percent of sophomores). This happens most often at a red light or stop sign and while in stop and go traffic.

“It’s natural for teens to gain confidence behind the wheel as they get older and log more driving hours,” said Dr. Gene Beresin, senior advisor on adolescent psychiatry with SADD and Executive Director of The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital. “However, this age group is more likely to test the boundaries as consequences for bad driving behaviors decrease and their freedoms and responsibilities at home increase, making them feel more like adults. As a result, it is even more important for parents and teens to have conversations about safe driving practices to avoid potentially putting themselves and others at risk on the road.”

Dangerous behaviors behind the wheel continue to become more prevalent as teens rise the ranks

Behavior while Driving




Changing music via phone or app




Having 3+ passengers








Driving when drowsy




How parents can encourage safe driving behavior with teens

Parents are key influencers when it comes to teens’ behaviors behind the wheel – both their current habits and ones they may pick up as they gain experience and confidence. Dr. Gene Beresin and Mike Sample, MS, CSP, lead driving safety expert & technical consultant at Liberty Mutual, offer the following tips to help parents encourage safe driving behaviors:

 Keep practicing: Nearly 40 percent of teens say their parents stop practicing driving with them after they get their license. Teaching shouldn’t stop when teens leave the DMV with a license in hand. Parents should continue to drive with their teens and remind them of safe driving behaviors with frequent check-ins and conversations.

Hold each other accountable: Mom, dad and teens can all be held accountable and parents can set a good example with today’s new monitoring technology. Apps can track and scores driving behavior based on factors including phone usage while driving, acceleration, hard braking and speeding and even rewards drivers with a discount on auto insurance in select states.

Reward safe driving: Parents can consider regularly rewarding their teen for safe driving. Rather than focusing on the consequences of bad driving behavior, a reward like a break from a specific chore or a $10 gift card, could be an effective way to remind teens to think about their actions while driving.

Set expectations: Parents and teens can use the Teen Driving Contract as a conversation starter and discussion guide. This tool covers important safety issues and is an easy roadmap for parents and teens alike to uphold family driving rules.

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